Tobacco Seed Production

June 6, 2010

One of the most unknown aspects of premium cigar tobacco is the seed production.  Not many people know that tobacco produces a pink and white flower, which grows in clusters at the top of the plant.  In fact, most of the flowers are removed before they have time to develop, depending on what sort of tobacco is being grown.  When the flower is left on, you get thinner tobacco leaves since the plant focuses on reproduction and moves away from its vegetative stage of growth, this is used mostly in Connecticut wrapper crops. When you remove the flower you get thicker textured tobacco, with leaves that have more substance and essential oils, due to more nutrients going to those leaves instead of the flower.   You also leave the flower after selecting a plant that you wish to obtain seeds from and reproduce.

This is where the entire cigar manufacturing process begins, seed to ash.  Without quality seeds, you’ll be hard pressed to turn out premium quality tobacco.  To help better understand the nature of the plant we love – it helps to understand where it all begins – seed reproduction. Tobacco seeds are produced in pods, or capsules that form directly under the flower.  The female end of a flower, also known as the pistol, needs to be pollinated by the male pollen in order for seeds to be produced.  Tobacco is a flowing plant and has no fruit or vegetable.  When a tobacco flower is pollinated, the seeds will form in a capsule, or pod directly under the flower.

Cigar manufacturers have been able to modify tobacco by cross-pollinating different strains by fertilizing a flower of one strain, with the pollen of another.  By doing this, they are able to create new breeds known as hybrids.  Each tobacco strain has a unique characteristic all its own.  The shape of leaves, the height of the plant – all are indications to particular strains.  If a cigar manufacturer likes the characteristic of one strain, and another characteristic of another, they will cross-pollinate to create a new generation of tobacco.  When the tobacco grows, they can then pick out the plants that have the characteristic they are looking for, and continue to breed and produce seeds with the plants that have the strongest characteristic desired.

After a tobacco seed capsule is fertilized, it can take anywhere from five to twenty days to mature.  The seed capsule will stay green until the flower has bloomed, become fertalized, and dies.  When the flower has wilted, it wil drop and and the pod will continue to mature until the seeds are ripe.  High-quality tobacco seeds are reproduced much like any fruit.  The tobacco plants used for reproduction go in their own greenhouses and used soley for seed reproduction.  The purpose for these particular plants is to propegate the next generation or batch of a new tobacco strain.

Tobacco seeds are really a unique phenomenon.  Each seed is relative in size to a coffee ground.  A single pod or capsule can produce about 2000 seeds. There is no mistaking “raw” capsules from “ripe” ones.  A a green capsule (top left) will have seeds that are almost white in color.  They are very moist and stick together.  When a capsule is ripe (top right) it is brown and wilted.  A single gram of tobacco seeds (bottom right) can have up to 11,000 seeds.  It’s hard to image that inside each of these capsules are thousands of seeds.  Something that can literally be blown away by the wind can produce a natural miracle.  Leave it up to humans to harness it and create something so intricate as a premium cigar.

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